I learned this by helping one of the research students carefully identify wasps for her project last week and actually had a pretty good time.
Then after much more hard work on the beach sitting out under the sun after finishing my management plans I took off for a saturday-sunday trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes. While 4/6 of us went down the Platte on tubes, Adam and I took off down the beach to find Piping Plovers: a bird that I saw once long ago and didn't even recognize its importance due to being bird-illiterate at the time.
They are a very rare bird because they have very little breeding habitat left because they prefer beaches with some cobbley areas for nesting. When a nest is discovered its such a big deal that they mark the area off to prevent people from intruding so that the bird can nest. The beach in those areas is also kept free of dogs and animals during the year.
Young Piping plover and white rumped sandpiper (we think)
We had extrodinary luck and saw 7 fabulous individuals - 6 juvies and 1 adult. We found them in the area of their nesting site off of a good tip from a park ranger. Luck was on our side as migration has already started and no one had seen the plovers in a few days and suspected that they had taken off.
The next day, after camping in a back country site 1 mile in, Adam, Micah, and I took off for the scenic drive leaving 3 others behind. We had a great time and visited my favorite place to watch a sunset (despite not getting to see the sunset) in Michigan. The overlook is a dune drop off of 450 feet which some people roll or run down. Adam carried Micah the entire way (not really).
Adam and Micah "climbing" part of the dune
On our way to the dune we of course stopped randomly on the side of the road to pick up a good look at some Sandhill cranes, including one juvy. Here we also heard grasshopper sparrow, saw vespers sparrow, and saw eastern meadowlark.
Finally we trecked back to AuSable and made it in time for lunch without stopping for either of the hawks we saw - redtail and northern goshawk. It was my last "Messiah" weekend for a long long time... But certianly not the last time we'd hang out - as even yesterday we drove into town to watch the Sox beat the Yanks 9-2 when Jon Lester pitched.
Only a few more days remain. It makes me sad - I'll miss these people but new fun awaits.